HC Deb 16 February 1993 vol 219 cc243-4 10.45 pm
Mr. McLoughlin

I beg to move amendment No. 12, in page 11, line 25, leave out from 'Officer' to end of line 27 and insert 'all the members of the union are provided with the statement required by this section by any of the methods allowed by subsection (1A).

(1A) Those methods are—

  1. (a) the sending of individual copies of the statement to members; or
  2. (b) any other means (whether by including the statement in a publication of the union or otherwise) which it is the practice of the union to use when information of general interest to all its members needs to be provided to them.'

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

With this we may take the following: Amendment No. 65, in page 11, line 37, leave out

'and other benefits provided to'. Government amendment No. 13.

Mr. McLoughlin

Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 respond to concerns expressed in Committee on 3 December. They fulfil the Government's commitment to table amendments that would address the issues raised in amendments Nos. 9 and 10.

Mr. Galbraith

The Minister is right in saying that Government amendment No. 12 fulfils obligations made in Committee to deal with the means by which members can be notified about accounts. Amendment No. 65 was tabled by the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), who will wish to speak to it. We have already discussed the issues in Committee, and we support the aim of the amendment, for reasons that the hon. Gentleman will no doubt want to raise again later.

As for Government amendment No. 13, will the Minister explain why the copies of the statement should be provided free of charge if a copy has already been provided, either directly or through publication? Why should a member be able to request a copy without at least paying for delivery?

Mr. Peter Bottomley

I tabled amendment No. 65 because I fear that the Government's definition of "other benefits" may be too broad. I should be interested to know whether there is a greater requirement to add up all the small benefits that trade unions might have in theory, compared with the requirement for company directors to have their package put together.

If we are talking just about pay and pensions, that seems fine; if the provision goes wider than that, I feel that we should be given an explanation why we are picking out trade union leaders and assuming that they are far more likely to go off with the family silver than a director of a public company.

Mr. McLoughlin

Let me deal first with the point raised by the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith). His point was that we originally said that copies had to be provided directly to all members. We have now accepted the points made by the Opposition in Committee, but we have said that, if someone wants a more specified account, that person will have a right to it free of charge. I think that our amendments go some way towards meeting the concerns expressed by Opposition Members.

As for amendment No. 65, I have already said that the Government welcome the fact that, on Second Reading, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) expressed support for the new rules. We consider them important. There would be little point in setting up arrangements meaning that, for example, a union could legitimately avoid having to tell its members the value or nature of the personal benefits received by its leader; yet that is exactly what the amendment would do.

I should make clear the nature of the information that will have to be given—as, indeed, was made clear in Committee on 1 December, during debate on amendment No. 20. In order to satisfy the new duty, a union must do its best to give details of all salary payments expressed in cash amounts and all other benefits that could either be expressed in terms of cash equivalent figures or in terms of an adequate description of the benefits concerned, if that is more appropriate or practical. The Government are grateful for the way in which the Opposition addressed these particular points. The principles, while providing the unions with more flexibility and options in respect of the discharge of their new duties, are acceptable to the House.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

I do not intend to press the amendment to a Division, but if Bill Morris, the general secretary of my trade union, the Transport and General Workers Union, is provided with a flat—I do not know whether he is or not—would that be counted? If, for example, the chief operating officer of ICI is provided with a flat, would that be counted in the company's report and accounts? If there is a difference in treatment, why?

Mr McLoughlin

My hon. Friend needs to look only at the way that this issue was dealt with in Committee. If a benefit to a person is a benefit over and above what is regarded as for his official duties, it should be shown.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 13, in page 12, line 51, at end insert— '() If at any time during the period of two years beginning with the day referred to in subsection (1) any member of the trade union requests a copy of the statement required by this section, the union shall, as soon as practicable, furnish him with such a copy free of charge.'—[Mr. McLoughlin.]

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